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Thursday, Dec. 17, 2009

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By any means necessary: Cleveland's Jamario Moon (left) is fouled by New Jersey's Devin Harris during the Cavaliers' 99-89 win on Tuesday. AP PHOTO

Kobe plays through pain to lead Lakers

CHICAGO (AP) Whether he was in the trainers' room or on the court, Kobe Bryant couldn't escape the pain. He did a better job avoiding defenders.

Bryant scored a season-high 42 points despite a broken finger, and the Los Angeles Lakers won for the 12th time in 13 games, beating the fading Chicago Bulls 96-87 on Tuesday.

Down one through three quarters, the Lakers took the lead early in the fourth and sent Chicago to its 11th loss in 13 games.

Bryant was simply phenomenal playing with a splint on his broken right index finger. He tore through the defense after struggling to score 16 in a loss to Utah on Saturday, when he also needed IV fluids because of a stomach problem.

"This is the most challenging one," Bryant said. "I've played with sore ankles, broken knuckles and things like that. It's tough, it affects my follow through."

He had trouble handling the ball, leading to eight turnovers. Otherwise, he had little difficulty with the Bulls.

It didn't seem to affect him in the early going, scoring 20 points in the first quarter and 25 in the half against single coverage as Los Angeles built a 54-48 lead. Some fans even chanted "MVP! MVP!" after his dunk in the closing seconds.

"You forget he has a broken finger," Shannon Brown said.

Ron Artest wouldn't even ask Bryant about it.

"If I ask him how his finger is doing he is going to strangle me," Artest said. "He is. When he is hurt you are not allowed to ask him how he is doing or you're not allowed to ask are you OK. He gets very mad. Really. You think he is playing, but he is really serious. If something happens to him injury wise there is no sense to ask him. He's a soldier."

Andrew Bynum added 11 points, Pau Gasol grabbed 16 rebounds and Shannon Brown scored seven of his nine in the fourth as Los Angeles came away with the win.

Luol Deng scored 21 for Chicago and so did Derrick Rose even though he strained a left rib in the first quarter. Brad Miller scored 15 and Joakim Noah added 11 points and 20 rebounds for his 11th double-double, but the Bulls came up short against the Western Conference leaders.

They can take some comfort in this, though: They didn't get embarrassed.

That's a big improvement for a team that lost to New Jersey and got blown out by Toronto, Atlanta and Boston during an ugly seven-day stretch.

"When you're getting blown out by 30 points, how can you say we're improving?" Noah said. "But I think tonight, we can look at ourselves and say we gave it everything we had and put ourselves in a situation to win the game and we just missed some open shots and some layups. I think if we bring that energy we should be happy with ourselves."

Cavaliers 99, Nets 89

In Cleveland, LeBron James had 23 points, six rebounds and seven assists while adding the role of peacemaker to his duties, and the Cavaliers beat New Jersey.

The Nets' Devin Harris was ejected with 3:48 left in the game after committing a flagrant-2 foul on Cleveland's Jamario Moon. Harris wrapped his arm around Moon's face and neck and pulled him to the ground while Moon was going up for a breakaway basket.

James wrapped his arms around Harris and tried to pull him away while restoring order as some of his teammates, including Shaquille O'Neal, began jawing and pushing their way toward Harris.

Heat 115, Raptors 95

In Miami, Michael Beasley tied his career high with 28 points, Dwyane Wade added 19 while sitting out the entire fourth quarter and the Heat won at home for the first time in more than three weeks.

Bobcats 94, Knicks 87

In Charlotte, Stephen Jackson scored 24 points and keyed the Bobcats' 15-2 run to end the game and stop New York's season-high four-game winning streak.

Rockets 107, Pistons 96

In Houston, Tracy McGrady sank a 3-pointer in his season debut, Luis Scola and Aaron Brooks scored 23 points apiece and the Rockets snapped the Pistons' five-game winning streak.

Suns 116, Spurs 104

In Phoenix, Amare Stoudemire had 28 points and 14 rebounds and reserve Goran Dragic contributed a career-high 18 points as the Suns improved to 9-0 at home.

Trail Blazers 95, Kings 88

In Portland, LaMarcus Aldridge hit the go-ahead layup despite a bum ankle and the Blazers snapped a two-game skid.

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